Sally Clarke and I discuss burnout - how people get it and what to do about it.
Sally is Co-Director at Human Leaders, a movement of leaders making work a place where humans thrive. Yay! She's also an author, coach, speaker, burnout researcher and co-host of the 'We are Human Leaders' podcast. Sally's latest book ‘Relight Your Spark’ guides individuals on how to heal and evolve after burnout.
Sally Clarke https://www.salcla.com
Human Leaders https://www.wearehumanleaders.com
How self-compassionate are you? https://bit.ly/3VDAy4V
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0:00:09.4 Dex: Hi everyone. My name's Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership Podcast. Where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Okay. Hello and welcome to today's episode, my friends, where we are joined by special guest. Burnout expert Sally Clarke. And Sally is the co-director at Human Leaders, a Movement of Leaders making work, a place where people, businesses and society can thrive.
0:00:39.7 Sally: Yay. [chuckle]
0:00:41.6 Dex: She's also an author, coach, speaker and burnout researcher. And Sally's latest book, Relight Your Spark, guides individuals on how to heal and evolve after burnout. A woman after my own heart I think. Sally also hosts the We Are Human Leaders podcast that you can check out later. Hello Sally. Welcome to the podcast.
0:01:03.2 Sally: Hi, Dex. It's awesome to be here. Thanks for having me.
0:01:06.8 Dex: My pleasure. Thanks for coming along and anything you'd like to add to that bio? Did I miss anything?
0:01:11.3 Sally: No, it's interesting. I'm turning 45 later this week and it's interesting to have your sort of career encapsulated in 100 or less words. But I think that's pretty on the mark certainly for where I am right now, so nothing to add.
0:01:25.6 Dex: Cool. And I was quite interested in the way that we met, 'cause we met... I met you through Kate Donovan. Who I think is a pretty marvellous burnout champion. We've got a lot of time for her and the work that she does. I admire it very much. And I feel very aligned with what she does and I feel somehow that you and I are a little bit in confluence about our thoughts about burnout and the causes and the effects and how to work with it. I'm pretty much about connection, really heart connection especially. How about you? What's your basis of your work?
0:02:00.8 Sally: That's such a great question, Dex, and I agree. Kate is an absolute firecracker. I think she's such an awesome connective force in this space. She really does bring a lot of this burnout community together. And certainly, one of my personal core values is connection. And that's been a key aspect of my life really since I went through my own burnout. And it is something that we underestimate in terms of creating... When we're in the process of building a career and trying to build a sustainable career, we underestimate how important it is to feel connected to other human beings. Most of us live in fairly individualistic societies, and we're often given messages explicit or otherwise that we shouldn't ask for help, and that we shouldn't need support. And I think being able to open up to connect with one another and understand each other's stories is such a, really is a key driver of burnout prevention ultimately with or, and recovery as well. So it's such a big part of life.
0:03:11.4 Dex: Absolutely. And I think over the last maybe 30 years, you are a lot younger than me. You wouldn't remember. Though our sense of connection at a community level and even a religious level or a family level has diminished and diminished and diminished and diminished. It's quite been nibbled and nibbled and nibbled away at then '95 we got the internet and over time that's become more and more and more disconnected and I think we haven't... It's been like boiling the frog. It's taken us a long time to notice that we're suddenly boiling.
0:03:43.4 Sally: It's interesting.
0:03:44.3 Dex: It kinda depends. A lot of burnout. Yeah, I would agree.
0:03:48.7 Sally: Yeah. I fully agree with you Dex. I feel like there's also, it's almost this paradox. At the same time as we've become more individualistic and disconnected through the impact of digitalization, there is also an, increasing drive towards spirituality and an increasing interest in having deeper conversations. 30 years ago there wasn't the kind of openness to mental health in the workplace. And there's still a huge stigma around it, but there's this interesting sort of paradox. That it's, while we've gone online and kids of today have a very different sort of upbringing and sort of in way of being to the, what I did back in the '80s in country Australia, there is also this, I feel like almost an unspoken understanding that this is so important to us. This is such an important component of the human experience and a lot of people are leaning in towards it.
0:04:48.2 Dex: Yeah, that's quite an interesting reflection about spirituality and mental health. It has been on the rise. I was thinking, I'm doing a mental health summit in a couple of weeks with a lot of other leaders and coaches and stuff, and the whole point of that is we are talking about our own mental health issues so that we can say, it's okay, you can live with them. It'll be fine. Because the stigma is still so heavy. A couple of generations ago, if you had mental health problems, you definitely didn't mention it a generation ago. Now you still didn't mention it now. Only a few years ago I got sacked for revealing that I had mental health challenges. I don't know that much has changed. The spirituality coming back in and the connection in the community is overdue I think.
0:05:37.6 Sally: Absolutely. I'm really sorry you had to go through that Dex. That's a really profound piece of evidence really, that while there is an increasing amount of talk and buzz around this focus on mental health and there are even movements towards legislation, these kinds of things are coming in and starting to shift the dial. It is still something around which there is an enormous stigma. And I feel like it is something where we need to probably... We need some courage on the part particularly of leaders to start the conversation and to open up, and for us to understand that it is a normal component of an intelligent human's life to have to struggle with mental health issues. This is something that almost everyone in leadership has, if you haven't had some moments of anxiety or even self-doubt, then I think...
0:06:33.5 Sally: You're probably lying to yourself. So I think we really do need to have, be pushing to create this space so that people can... And what really inspires me is also being able to encourage people early in their career right now, to start to think about those things. Because certainly when I was a finance lawyer in my 20s and I'd excelled at school and I'd gotten all these good grades and I was very intelligent and capable. I had all of this education, but I've never really reflected on who I really was, but also how best to look after myself in that kind of environment. And it meant that for me, burnout was almost an inevitability because it was such an intense environment. And that's, I think why I find it really inspiring to be able to talk to people early in their career and say, okay, it is awesome to work hard. And especially you're smart, you've got energy, that is a beautiful thing. Let's see how we can make this a sustainable experience so that you are thriving at 30, you're thriving at 40, you're thriving through that whole career, rather than exhausting yourself and having to then recover from that as I did in my early 30s.
0:07:51.6 Dex: And I think we'll come back to that in a second, but I would say that youngsters have much more awareness of mental health because of the huge sky-rocket in the number of them that are actually suffering mental health issues when they are youth or children. And I deal with quite a lot of college kids in burnout, which it's not funny.
0:08:14.1 Sally: It's horrible isn't it?
0:08:14.3 Dex: Yeah.
0:08:15.2 Sally: That's, yeah... so I co-author a study every year, the state of workplace burnout, with my colleague, Dr General John Chan. And the findings in the latest report were that the 18 to 24 age group was showing the highest rate of burnout. And we were astonished. And it's been something that's really stuck in my mind since those findings came through. What is going on? And I could speak for hours really about my sort of thoughts about that, what's underpinning that, but I think between the experience of the pandemic and that's obviously been different through different countries. But that combined with digitalization and combined with, I think this, building a sense of pressure that young people feel exposed to. And to the extent that we can, I'm really glad that you are having conversations with college-aged students as well, because the earlier we start to talk about it, we have the language to talk about it. We maybe hear some vulnerability from people older than us. It creates that environment of psychological safety, I guess, that we need to start to develop so that we can when things aren't going great, we feel safe to say things aren't going great.
0:09:33.0 Dex: Yeah. And I wonder if the youngsters have a little bit more access to that, certainly than we did. But I think they've also, they've had their formative years in this culture of digital communication, which I don't find to be the... To be honest, the most conducive to community and connection and relationships and continuity.
0:09:55.7 Sally: Absolutely. Dex, I test as an extrovert, but I consider myself really quite introverted. So for me, the period of being sort of pushed into remote work in early 2020, I really enjoyed it. It was my comfort zone. I'm very comfortable in my own company. I could wear my yoga pants all day. It was great. What I realized was a huge lesson for me though, even as someone who considers myself very sort of introverted and comfortable in my own space, I was thirsty for human connection. And when I could finally give workshops in person again and speak to people in person again, it lit me up in a way that I just simply couldn't derive. And that's obviously, only anecdotal evidence. But there is a lot of study and research to show as well that intra-personal connection and the way that we communicate, the way that we listen, the way that we hold space for each other and actually feel the energy of one another when we're in person is quite a different experience to through the internet.
0:11:00.4 Dex: Well also our ANS works that way. Autonomic nervous system.
0:11:02.6 Sally: Totally.
0:11:03.6 Dex: In person together.
0:11:04.2 Sally: Yeah.
0:11:05.0 Dex: One will fire off the other and there's a whole lot of pheromones and hormonal and visual and side talks...
0:11:12.1 Sally: So a big cue...
0:11:15.1 Dex: Of being...
0:11:15.2 Sally: Yeah.
0:11:16.5 Dex: In the same space, even heat and energy.
0:11:17.9 Sally: Absolutely.
0:11:18.3 Dex: Heat in the body, there's so much that we kind of gain from being in physical space.
0:11:25.5 Sally: We do and I was a yoga teacher for a number of years and I've taught online and in person and I ended up stopping with online teaching quite quickly because I feel that doing a yoga class in person, I have my own practice. I mainly do yoga by myself. But the difference when I go to a class and have people around me and share that space, it's multidimensional. That's the only way I can describe it. It really is such a different energetic experience. Sorry if I took that a little bit down a hippie track there.
0:11:56.4 Dex: I think you're allowed to be a hippie if you'd like to be.
0:12:00.2 Sally: Okay. Good. Thanks [laughter]
0:12:01.2 Dex: I think you get to be you here. Yeah. I think it's so interesting 'cause I come from an energy work background as well. So I used to work hands-on with people and I really miss that. I do find that you can get a good connection across the internet in some ways and a deep connection.
0:12:21.5 Sally: Yep. And I think that's one of the things that I've loved about the last few years as well, is the number of people that I've met for the first time through places like LinkedIn, which have really brightened my days. It'll be a half-hour virtual coffee at 8:00 in the morning and I would notice myself a few hours later still feeling...
0:12:40.7 Dex: Yeah.
0:12:41.2 Sally: Different to if I had not had that conversation. And that's absolutely a gift.
0:12:46.0 Dex: Yeah. And even amongst burnout coaches, I started a Facebook group for burnout coaches last year at some point. Now I've got 200 coaches in there already. I don't know where they're coming from, but just getting them.
0:12:57.0 Sally: There's a lot of need [laughter]
0:13:00.0 Dex: Well tell it. And I was reading your burnout study and do you know, I got an inkling about your burnout experience. You've just shared a tiny bit. And to me, it makes sense 'cause this seems one of the verticals where there is a great deal of burnout, like medicine, law, academia, teachers, that's a whole bunch of those. So we could get into that in a minute. But really something pulled my eye in your burnout study from 2023. And it was partial on BANI, brittle anxious, non-linear, incomprehensible. What's your take on that? What does that mean for you? So I thought that was really interesting about the way we live together and not quite together. Brittle and anxious.
0:13:48.4 Sally: Yeah, exactly. I think the word anxiety, I wonder if it's gonna be the word of 2023. It is such a prominent component of so many discussions that I'm having at the moment. And we live in a very disrupted time, and I'm always reluctant to sort of compare different times, 'cause I wasn't alive 500 years ago. So I kind of don't have lived experience of that. But I do sense that there is perhaps, and... I'm a bit of an optimist, so I'm gonna try not to immediately frame this as a very, as a potentially positive thing, but it's a time of being really confronted with the fact that we have much less control than we think we do. And we got away for quite a lot of years. I think most of us, with the sense of, excessive sense of urgency, just expected things would go the way we thought they would.
0:14:49.9 Sally: And we're being very sort of heavily confronted with the fact that that is not necessarily the case. I can consider that a positive development. It is one that's challenging for those of us who. For whom control is important, for whom having our expectations met is very important. And I think that's why we're probably seeing a bit of a rise in anxiety because we have this awareness now, I can't control as much as I thought I could. Now, if we can use that insight to pivot to a different way of being with each other, perhaps even in the workplace. And this is perhaps an extreme way of thinking, but we are so tied into this very capitalist, looking at the this is the quarterlies, these are the KPIs. Can we perhaps undo those ways of thinking and flow a little bit more with the fact that the only constant is change?
0:15:46.8 Dex: Yeah. And I'm hearing you and I'm thinking, well, that's all very well. But the reason we need control now, is we lack this sense of agency. The brittleness of society, if you like, we've fallen apart a little bit and we all feel vaguely unsafe most of the time. So we're trying to control our environment to mitigate, so the number of people who want this level of control has exploded.
0:16:10.6 Sally: And I think maybe it's when we're talking about different ways that we can create a sense of control and perhaps we could say, for example, the way the media reports. For example, in the two countries where I've spent most of my life, which are the Netherlands and Australia, crime rates have reduced significantly in the last 30 to 40 years. It's a much safer place to be than it was when I was a kid. And even then, honestly, country Australia was pretty chill. However, there's this perception, very much sort of driven by the media, this fear-mongering that goes on, that seeds the idea that we are unsafe. And I think that's really dangerous and damaging.
0:16:52.4 Sally: It may really saddens me that that's the kind of narrative that a lot of people are exposed to. Because it limits us and it stops us. I think particularly when that's the only narrative we're receiving. It stops us from questioning whether that's necessarily true. And you know what, is that just a perception, or is that valid based on the data? I remember a friend of mine here in the Netherlands, she's a public prosecutor, and she spent some time working with the homicide team in Amsterdam Police. And when she told me sort of the numbers of like... I expected it to be sort of thousands and thousands of murders happening in Amsterdam a year and the numbers were tiny and that sort of really brought home to me.
0:17:36.7 Sally: That I've been bought into that idea as well that it's a dangerous world. That crime is out, that sort of everywhere around us, everything is dangerous, and I think we... It would be a great thing for us to be able to shift back to just questioning that a bit more, questioning the media, and looking for, rather than the evidence of and in our difference and the danger, looking for the evidence of our connection and our similarities. And working from there to create solutions to things like uncertainty and anxiety.
0:18:11.9 Dex: Yeah. That's quite interesting. You've taken off on quite a different route than I was thinking about.
0:18:15.5 Sally: Sorry. [chuckle]
0:18:16.4 Dex: Well, it is quite, it's always fascinating talking to people about burnout because it's such a... There's just such a whole planetary system of ways of thinking about it and how it works and what to do about it. Like I never meet two people who agree on what the solution to burnout is. One of the reasons I always ask is you know what each person does... But what I was really thinking is more emotional, and psychological safety, not physical environmental safety.
0:18:42.9 Sally: Uh-huh. Yeah.
0:18:43.2 Dex: 'Cause I think we've lost internal safety. We used to know who we were and we used to feel it was okay to be asked. And I don't think we have that now anywhere near as much as we would've.
0:18:58.5 Sally: And again, this is anecdotal evidence. I don't think in my family, at least we didn't. It's not that we've lost it, at least in the last few generations. I don't think my parents had that. I think they were born, my dad in 1923 and my mum was born in 1943. They grew up in times of fairly significant uncertainty. I think a lot of their behaviour was probably driven from a young age and their parent's behaviour by sort of that fight-flight-freeze, heightened alert, chronic stress response. And again, so this is my own sort of experience, I didn't see that there was this kind of shift from them having happy, stable...
0:19:44.1 Sally: Peaceful and pleasure-driven lives to something that shifted in my generation to be different. Again, anecdotally in the Netherlands, I've got good friends who grew up around the time of the Second World War and soon after, and that was here, that happened here. There was an enormous amount of people who lived in the city that I'm in right now, who were killed during the Second World War. And that is a... I don't think for me it's so much that we've lost that. I think we're actually, it's like a different manifestation of not feeling emotionally and psychologically safe. And we're talking about it Dex this is the great thing. We are having conversations about that being something we wanna move towards. And I think that's amazing.
0:20:35.1 Dex: Okay, so let's talk about that then, 'cause you... I know are a big exponent of the prevention of burnout and moving towards thriving. What do you think of the essential ingredients?
0:20:47.6 Sally: At an individual or an organisational level Dex?
0:20:50.1 Dex: Either one.
0:20:51.1 Sally: Cool, for individuals and this is where what my first book is shaped around, I think there are three aspects. So both of my books, I explain that the causes of stress as I see them based on the research I've done, are primarily external. They're cultural, whether that's organizational culture, that's a broader societal culture in terms of how we view and think about and talk about work. And then there's an internalised aspect because we start to take on those cultural beliefs and internalise them, and that drives the behaviour that can then end in burnout to solve or to prevent burnout at an individual level. We need to be mindful that a lot of the causes the far beyond the realm of our control, what we can control are three things. That is self-compassion, self-knowledge, and self-awareness. So self-compassion means knowing that you are intrinsically worthy, just as you are not dependent on your productivity, on your job title, on your salary, on your status.
0:21:49.6 Sally: So it really is honestly at a very fundamental level, it's self-love. Self-knowledge is really doing the work of understanding who you are as a unique individual. What are your values? What makes your heart shine? How do you want your life to look? Maybe what do you want your impact to be? And the third component, self-awareness is an ongoing, lifelong journey of practices that we do every day, or at least regularly, that help us connect with our body intelligence, and our emotional intelligence, and keep us really aligned and attuned to the signals that we're getting from our body, from our emotions, maybe from our thoughts as well. And to give a bit of perspective on that, I like to say that self-compassion is the reason that we set boundaries. Self-knowledge is how we know what our boundaries are. And self-awareness is the power of being able to see when our boundaries are being respected or being crossed.
0:22:52.8 Dex: Okay. So do you think then that, do you see burnout, preventional recovery as being centred around boundaries?
0:23:02.2 Sally: Not necessarily. I think that's just the way I contextualise those three components. Certainly setting boundaries is an important factor in it, but I feel like boundaries are an outcome when we have a really strong sense of self-love. And when we know ourselves well, setting boundaries and maintaining boundaries will be a natural flow. Well, it might still be uncomfortable sometimes, but it will be a consequence of those factors, those foundational factors that we lay down.
0:23:31.6 Dex: That's interesting. I'm broadly on the same page as you. 'Cause I think the personal, internal self-supporting self-recovery is what stimulates all the externals to fall back into place. Everything comes a little bit right. Not by itself, but much more so than if you're trying to fix your environment instead of yourself that it's really a heart-led recovery. It's a connection. Unconditional love for the self-lead to recovery.
0:24:04.2 Sally: I love that you say that word, heart-led recovery, that phrase Dex. I think that's so powerful and I think that's the only way that recovery can truly be impactful. And like so many things in our lives, it's very tempting to want to externalise what's going on and say that person did that wrong. And I'm not saying that everyone else is blameless and that we should be piling blame on ourselves, but leading prevention and recovery from a place of self-love, from the heart, is incredibly strong. And reminds me a little of Kristin Neff's work around fierce self-compassion. It's got that little bit off, there's something, There's a bit like it's a bit on fire, it's a bit feisty. And I think particularly for those of us who've previously been people pleasers, like having that bit of feisty self-compassion, self-love is such a powerful tool. It's such a powerful experience.
0:25:02.6 Dex: So, so powerful. I see the most intensely amazing comebacks when people start to come from their heart, connect with their heart, and then it automatically helps them connect with the people around them who they care about spontaneously anyway, but kind of withdrawn from before and it was hurting.
0:25:23.2 Sally: Amazing. Is that, can I have to ask, is that something that you've personally experienced as well, that transition to having because that's certainly not something that resonates for me. Yeah, tell me...
0:25:32.4 Dex: Yeah. Very intentionally in my recovery, I knew, I somehow knew that my heart was the only thing that was gonna rescue me. And it was pretty shut down, pretty bruised and pretty scared about coming out of the box. And that's what I love about the work that I do now. 'Cause it's for me, it's totally heart-connected work. I work with the most amazing, gorgeous, wonderful people and they go on to work with people around them. Like they're multipliers, they're leaders. They've got a bunch of people who are working with and for and around them that they get to support when they grow. And that piece of it, for me, being allowed to use my heart at work is just, I think it is a really big part of what brought me back to life. 'Cause I worked in IT. You didn't bring your heart to work. I never did. It was okay not to. We were all like stunted.
0:26:28.3 Dex: You part a bit like physicians and they're taught to leave their emotions at home. What kind of an injury would that leave? And I just think a lot of us in business have come up that way. Lawyers are not really renowned for being particularly heart-led or being encouraged to be academia's the same accountants, all these different verticals are the same. They're not encouraged to lead from the heart and be there in the heart where really. That's the leadership that works best of all with people with retention, with safety, with numbers. With results. I just can't, I dunno how we got to this place without it. So for me, being allowed to have a heart and have it publicly is phenomenal.
0:27:15.3 Sally: I couldn't agree more Dex. I think there's increasing research to show that leaders who do have the capacity to put people first to lead from the heart are creating different kinds of organizations and workplaces and different outcomes as well. And it's to my mind just makes, it makes so much sense. It feels revolutionary to some extent because it's definitely not the trodden path, certainly in the fields that you've listed as well. But what a wonderful experience to be able to share with your clients and then know that that is having a ripple effect.
0:27:53.0 Dex: Yeah. And their careers just take off because they're able to lead in this way. That is so, so powerful. But look at books like it's great. Jim Collins, same thing. Creativity Inc, the same thing about Pixar. The more books I read, the more I see it's actually the most successful possible way to lead a team. But I think I did it by accident. 'Cause I used to work in IT and I was the fixer. They used to bring me in when teams were broken. Kept choosing jobs where the whole team or the whole organization was just imploding. And I would just go in and well boil the machinery really. And I didn't.
0:28:36.5 Sally: Yeah.
0:28:37.4 Dex: It was unconscious. I just knew that that's what had to happen. But now I can see that this was the same. This is what's prepared me to do this work.
0:28:46.4 Sally: Amazing. I think that's one of the great things, again, about getting older, is that I can see the almost the tapestry of my career and my life is, I look back now and of course, I do that thing that humans do and I make a nice story around it. But it's so lovely to see how all of these things that at the time seemed like a mistake or a failure are actually a key component of how I get to do the work that I do now. And how I get to have the impact that I have now. And I think that's a really lovely thing to see, to be able to turn those things, that pep even those things that weren't fully aligned with who I am. But that now means that I can have the impact and have the kind of conversations, and do the kind of research that really does make my heart come alive.
0:29:35.7 Dex: Yes. And it's so wonderful to have access to that. And then we get access to all of the people who think the same way, who we may not have really encountered previously. And there's this huge growing movement of, I think of them as heart-centred leaders, whatever you wanna call them, people who wanna leave from this place. I think also, I was trying to prove a point because 20 years ago, about 20 years ago, I was in, I grew up in England and I went over to England and I met this woman who was a psychotherapist just socially. And she just turned around to me in the course of our conversation. She said, "You're incapable of love." [laughter]
0:30:15.1 Sally: Wow.
0:30:15.5 Dex: [laughter] Oh dear. That's not good. And I chewed on that for a few years and I was so upset. I think I've been trying to prove that there's actually nothing at all wrong with my heart. It was other pieces of me that were a bit broken.
0:30:31.2 Sally: Gosh, feels like an unhelpful framing of her thoughts.
0:30:36.0 Dex: Unbelievable.
0:30:36.4 Sally: Very unsupportive way.
0:30:37.0 Dex: I would never say that to any human ever.
0:30:39.8 Sally: No.
0:30:40.8 Dex: But anyhow, it spurred me on. There we go.
0:30:44.3 Sally: Well. I'm glad it did. Maybe a little bit of a fire.
0:30:49.9 Dex: It did lit. I did light fire. I've had a lot of nudges in the right direction and that was probably one of them. I feel very guided. A lot of big things have happened to me in my life and they're all bunting me towards this started work that I've toyed with for 20 years before I was brave enough to have a go.
0:31:08.2 Dex: So tell us Sally, tell us what you are up to now. What's your latest baby?
0:31:15.6 Sally: So really it's, sort of two parts of my work, both of which I really love and that is working with human leaders which is myself and my co-director Alexis who's based in Australia. And we work with organisations teams specifically to help them shift the way that they lead, shift the way that they self-lead and interconnect and interact as teams to create a more people-centred way of working. Recently we've been working quite a lot with a sort of startup scale-up. So coming in at quite an early stage and helping them build a healthy culture. And that's been really exciting. And we are getting, we are seeing this real need and I think that's really validating. We're seeing a real need and desire from leaders to do things differently. They can see that there are issues, whether it's with engagement, burnout, or just ineffectiveness at work.
0:32:15.6 Sally: They can, they're getting surveys back saying there's a poor culture and there are things that we can do. And so we use the human leadership framework as a means of shifting the way that people lead and interact. And then my own work is the burnout side of things. And that's working here in Amsterdam with groups live, but also around the world. Giving webinars and interventions around burnout. And I tend to, I do that in a variety of ways.
0:32:50.9 Sally: It depends on what people are looking for. For some, for many organizations at this stage, it's really still educational. What is burnout, and what causes burnout? And what the question that I get most is how can I help someone I know and love, whether it's a colleague or someone that I... Outside of work. I can see that they're on their way to burnout. What can I do? And that for me is a really, that says a lot about burnout. Firstly, that when we're in it or on our way to it ourselves, we rarely, we've lost the perspective often to be able to ask that question and to start to step back and reverse that trajectory. And it also just speaks again to the heart. People see it, and it's devastating to watch someone go through the debilitating experience of burnout.
0:33:39.1 Sally: And the challenging thing is there's really, like so many things in life when someone's going through a challenging time, all we can do often is hold space, create a safe environment around them, ourselves be vulnerable. Maybe be inspired to be a little bit of a role model and set boundaries, and take care of yourself. Make sure you're working with self-compassion, self-knowledge, and self-awareness and be there for them. And be that safe harbour for when they are ready to talk that they can go talk to, that went from very broad about what I do to a very specific incident. I have to say Dex, that I burnt out 13 years ago as a finance lawyer and I was terrified and I was empty. And I now live a life that I love and I have so much meaning and so much connection that it almost feels, it feels very, very different to where I was 13 years ago. And I'm grateful every day that I've been able to tread this path and now to help people, whether it's through their recovery prevention or helping them have a better work experience. It's just really beautiful work.
0:34:54.4 Dex: It is. And I can hear your passion for it, which is what I love about the whole thing. I think it's so easy for me to have passion for people in burnout because they're such amazing people who've crashed quite badly and haven't usually are not very willing to talk about it. Like I work with leaders, executives, and professional men, and people used to say to me, for goodness sake, don't choose that as a niche because none of them will put their hand up to get help.
0:35:21.2 Sally: No one will come. Yeah.
0:35:22.8 Dex: Yeah. And sure enough, it was a little difficult to stimulate that. But I think, I don't know what you think, but my people tend to be type A personality, the attributes of which I find are very predisposing to burnout.
0:35:37.1 Sally: Enormously Dex. I think it's... I think for this is one of the things I say often to clients and publicly as well, is burnout's not a failure. It's your body's intelligent response to chronic stress.
0:35:52.4 Dex: Yeah.
0:35:53.0 SC: But Will does have that kind of ingrained hustle culture, which suggests that is particularly for those who are incredibly capable, who have historically been able to get away with pulling all-nighters to get college work done and push through their 20s and really extract so much from themselves. It's a signal from... It's a very extreme signal from the body and heart that it's not okay. It's your body trying to save your life in some ways. And we need to respect it. But I think, I'm really glad that you're in that space specifically 'cause I think the more male leaders, particularly that we have who can start to show that courage and vulnerability around talking around mental health. There's a huge amount of impact that they can have in that way and really opening things up. I think for the younger generations and the next generation of leaders that are gonna be coming through that will be more of an automatic thing that they bring that heart-centred, that calm place, that willingness to connect. And I really, I think that can be incredibly powerful.
0:37:08.7 Dex: Thank you. Yeah, I think that is happening. I don't have a lot of... I don't work with a lot of young people, a few, not very many, but I see they're much more open to talking about those sorts of things than we might have been. We were just nose in a book, get on with it, do the exams finish, off we go.
0:37:29.1 Sally: Exactly that, years and years of education without ever asking myself what my values were or what I wanted my life to look like or what also my personality type is like. And perhaps not to say that I would've avoided burnout. And when I look back, I'm really grateful for the path my life has taken, but some of those key questions asked early can make a huge difference. Even if it's not a drastic difference in trajectory, it can actually just track us just that little bit further away from a deep value burnout, to a safer path. But within the same industry, a sustainable career.
0:38:06.8 Dex: Yeah, I think it's always sustainable. I think, okay, there is a very big organisational element in providing the conditions that burnout can proliferate in. But I also believe that burnout's preventable and curable at the personal level 'cause I work with people in all of the industries that are headliners for burnout, and they all come back and thrive and flourish. So I can see that it's possible.
0:38:38.1 Sally: Yeah, I think that's a really powerful message as well, that it's, I quit after I went through my burnout because, for the first time, I realized that I had a choice about whether I was a lawyer for some, I rolled into this job and I rolled into it and rolled pretty, within four years I was completely burntout. And I see burnout prevention as kind of two levels as, there's absolutely incredible amounts that we can do as individuals, and it really, I too, as a burnout coach, when I can help someone go back to their law firm and continue to work in that environment, an environment that they really enjoy, but actually do it in a way that feels authentic and nourishing for them, that is a huge win. I love to see that.
0:39:21.3 Sally: And I also think we... Perhaps this is a bit of a lawyer's like mentality, but I also think about the structures in the systems. And there are so many things that we can do as leaders to change how we lead, and how we work together that can start to peel away some of those positive chronic stress. And I think that to my mind, that's, there's a bit of an onus on leaders to do that because you can have an impact for hundreds of people potentially if you shift a few of those mechanisms slightly, that could have a huge impact for your organisation. So I think if we're taking that, both of those approaches, let's improve our systems and let's work on our own self-leadership to avoid burnout ourselves, then the sky's the limit.
0:40:05.2 Dex: I completely agree. Yeah. I think we are running outta time today, sadly. But so what would you like... What do you wish I'd asked you, but I didn't, anything you wanted to say?
0:40:14.2 Sally: There isn't Dex I feel like we've covered so much. I also feel like we could talk for hours more. No, it's been a really...
0:40:25.8 Sally: It's been a really beautiful conversation and really lovely. I think the more the word heart-centred leadership is used in a conversation, the happier I get. So I'm really thrilled to share this space with you. Thank you.
0:40:38.3 Dex: Well, I'm so delighted you come and join us on the podcast today. Thank you very much for being here.
0:40:44.3 Sally: My pleasure.
0:40:45.2 Dex: And listeners, you can find all of Sally's links in the show notes today. And for those of you who are in burnout, please listen at the end, you must come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably from burnout so that you can enjoy your best performance and engagement at work and also in your life outside work. And also, by the way, if you enjoyed this episode, I would love you to rate and review this podcast so that other people can find us too. Thank you so much.
0:41:16.8 Dex: If you are in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.